Photo by Edward April 20,
2010. ©Copyright 2010 by Stanyan Music group. All Rights Reserved
A Thought for Today
If love goes out the door don’t be too
proud to follow it.
TO BEGIN WITH
Thanks to all of you who sent birthday greetings and E-mails with well
wishes. All three of us (Edward, Buddy the cat and myself) celebrated an
uneventful but happy & healthy birthday. Wish I could respond to each
and every one of your thoughtful letters but that’s a task I’m not quite
up to. Just wanted each of you to know that I read and appreciated each
and every one and Edward wants to thank you too for remembering his
The only thing I didn’t open were the E-cards. They seem to have a
propensity for crashing my CPU. But again thanks for the good wishes and
Hello Mr. McKuen, this is Eli. I wrote to you a
while ago and you responded and then for Christmas my mother took me to
Buddy Greco's bar to watch you perform. It was truly magical and way
better than a BB gun. But I digress.
My question this time is do you ever write really bad poetry? I'm
talking about the times where you'll be sitting down and see something
and scramble for a napkin and pen and write it down, put it in your
pocket, and you go home with a fresh mind and read it, and you realize,
it's crap? Being a writer myself this always happens to me. And then, if
it's not crap, I'll lose it. I can't count how many poems are in between
friend's sofa cushions or on a plane or at restaurants. Does this ever
happen to you? I'm asking because it's always nice to know you're not
alone out there. Also, one last question. Think of you're first book
ever. Maybe not even your first published book, it could be a chapbook
or whatnot. Did it tank in sales? I'm finding my lack of sales for my
first chapbook discouraging (I think I've sold maybe 14). It's so far
cost me more time, energy, and especially money to make them than is
being produced. I wish I could send you a copy, but I understand and
fully respect your policy on not accepting peoples' OPs (original
pieces). Take care now. Con amor y mas, Eli
Dear Eli, My apologies for taking so long to answer your last letter.
Things are a bit crazy (as usual) around here and trying to find time to
get through the mail is becoming more and more difficult. I’m hoping now
that I have my iPad – a birthday present I bought myself – I’ll use the
learning curve to help with my e-mails. So far my favorite application
is the excellent note pad.
Yes Eli, every poet writes his or her share of what can only with
charity be termed dreck. The trick is to spot it, be ruthless about it
and trash it right away. Occasionally what you know and feel is a good
line or two will emerge out of the junk. I try to hold on to those and
squirrel them away. Often weeks, sometimes years later you’ll stumble on
that saved item and it will springboard a new idea or if you are lucky
maybe even a whole poem.
I live in dreaded fear of being caught without a writing instrument and
a scrap of paper. I nearly always carry a notebook and pen with me
wherever I go. . . just in case. Sure as hell if you are without paper
an idea will come.
Don’t ever be afraid of writing something worthless because in order to
get to what you finally feel is ‘the good stuff’ it’s necessary to get a
lot of junk out of your system. As to sales, my first book “and autumn
came” was published just as I was going into the army, needless to say I
couldn’t do much in the way of promoting it. It was a near total bust as
far as moving copies goes and only caught on after I became successful
As you know, I had a real advantage by making albums and performing
while I was writing books. I advertised my books on the back of my LP’s
and vice versa. That’s why I have trouble advising young poets how to
market their work. My circumstances were unique.
Don’t be discouraged. This may sound trite but I promise you that you
will be successful, but only if your drive matches your talent and you
want to be a writer more than anything else in the world. That’s just
the way it works. The sacrifices you have to make to reach the top in
any field are more than most people are willing to put up with –
particularly where personal relationships are concerned.
KEEP WRITING. All My Best to you, as ever, Rod
Mr. McKuen, A quick explanation on why I am
contacting you: I created and run a site devoted to rejected scores,
where a composer does a score for a film/TV episode/video game, but in
the end it is replaced.
I read an old news blurb stating you were doing the score to "Myra
Breckinridge", but IMDB.com shows a different composer. Did you in fact
record a score, which was not used? Thank you, Justin Boggan
Dear Justin, I'm afraid that one was a case of 20th Century Fox press
agents working overtime.
Here's the scoop: I had done the score for "Joanna" directed by Michael
Sarne followed by "The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie" produced by Robert
Fryer. Since Sarne & Fryer were both to be involved in Breckenridge
there had been buzz around the studio that I would write the music for
In fact I went to far as to fly to Rome with Fryer to meet with Gore
Vidal, author of the book and later had a couple of meetings with Mae
West about the songs I would write for her to sing in it. These meetings
happened about 18 months before there was a completed script.
When I read the first draft of the "Breckenridge" script I decided to
pass. In the end John Phillips of The Mamas & The Papas fame did the
music for it & in what could only be a Hollywood story ended up meeting
and marrying Genevieve Wait the star of "Joanna."
Here’s a bit of additional trivia, MB was the first film where Tom
Seleck made a screen appearance. Cheers. Rod
IN SOMEONE’S SHADOW
I have been searching for lyrics to the song that contains the words "If
we must go as tattered gypsies seeking out the friendly people, let it
be so. For more than one man has come up in someone's shadow and looking
back before he closed the door. He found sunlight streaming through the
window. Sometimes if he's lucky he's found more." I would so appreciate
knowing all those words. Where might I find them? Sincerely, Susan
Dear Susan, The lyrics you quote are from the song “In Someone's
Shadow.” The title comes from the 1969 book of the same name and I sang
it for the first time in the 1970 LP New Ballads. New Ballads is being
mastered for CD release this fall as part of a boxed series entitled The
Warner Bros. Years: Vol. I. Here are the lyrics:
In Someone's Shadow
There is substance of a kind
In Someone's Shadow
the inside of the outside of a dream
and when you lie down in the darkness
in the shadow of a lover
who cares if things are not
what they may seem.
There is safety that is sure
In Someone's Shadow
you belong to part of something
you can feel
in the silence of the night time
in the shadow of a lover
what matters if reality's unreal.
If we must go... as tattered gypsies
seeking out the friendly people let it be so
for more that one man has come up
from someone's shadow.
And looking back before
he closed the door
he's found sunlight streaming
through the window
sometimes when he's lucky
he finds more.
-from “New Ballads,” 1969
All the best and thanks for the query. Rod
1970’S TEXAS VISIT
In the early 70's you came to San Antonio and
spoke to a child abuse prevention group. My father, Gerald T.
Sueltenfuss, was president and you came for a small gathering at our
house. I met you. You signed a book and I told you how I did a
Literature project at Central Catholic High School on your works. I have
been curious if you remember. I am now 57, married with two grown
children and one daughter who has passed away. Thank you for being a
kind influence through your poetry. Paul E. Sueltenfuss, Ed.D. Special
Dear Paul, I do remember and I recall that you promised to send me a
copy of your essay. And? It's been a while since I've been in San
Antonio but I have good memories of several trips there.
Congratulations on what sounds like a good life, despite the tragedy of
your daughter. Our children aren't supposed to go before we do. Being in
The Special Education field must be a challenge
Thanks for the kind words and the mental trip back to the '70's. All my
best to you and your family, Paul. Warmly, Rod
LOOKING FOR A BOOK
Rod, I read many of your poems while in college
during the late 60's and early 70's. I had copied a passage out of one
of your books that really hit home with me but cannot remember the book
it came from. I had the copy until 2005 when Hurricane Katrina claimed
all of my belongings as her own. During tough times I would read this
passage and draw strength from it.
The passage started with - Born in my heart. Born in the pain of ending
one life and beginning another. I forget most of the rest except for -
This is for dreamers for those who are too gentle to live among wolves.
I would greatly appreciate your help in locating the book this passage
is in. I have purchased several of your books on Amazon, but have not
found the right one yet. Thank You so much. Helen Senn
Dear Helen, I’ve racked my brain and other more reliable files and as I
suspected none of the lines you attribute to me are mine. Didn’t Jim
Kavenough have a book entitled “Some Men Are Too Gentle To Live Among
Wolves?” You might try searching his works. Sorry I can’t be of further
help. All the best, Rod
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